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5/29: Latinos are reporting fewer sexual assaults amid a climate of fear in immigrant communities, LAPD says
Released 12 June 2017  By James Queally – Los Angeles Times

Latinos are reporting fewer sexual assaults amid a climate of fear in immigrant communities, LAPD says

James Queally – Los Angeles Times
May 29, 2017

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that reports of sexual
assault and domestic violence made by the city’s Latino residents have
plummeted this year amid concerns that immigrants in the country illegally
could risk deportation by interacting with police or testifying in court.

Beck said reports of sexual assault have dropped 25% among the city’s
Latino population since the beginning of 2017 compared with the same
period last year, adding that reports of domestic violence have fallen by
10%. Similar decreases were not seen in reports of those crimes by other
ethnic groups, Beck said.

“Imagine, a young woman, imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother …
not reporting a sexual assault, because they are afraid that their family
will be torn apart,” Beck said.

Beck’s comments — which drew criticism from immigration enforcement
advocates — came during an event in East Los Angeles in which Mayor Eric
Garcetti signed an executive directive expanding the LAPD’s policy of not
stopping people solely to question them about their immigration status to
three other city agencies: the Fire Department, Airport Police and Port
Police. The LAPD stopped initiating contacts with people in order to
determine their immigration status in 1979. In 2014, the city ceased
honoring requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold
people in custody for possible deportation.

“We want to focus on serious crime, but we also want to focus on making
more citizens, not more criminals,” Garcetti said.

For months, law enforcement leaders across the U.S. have expressed fear
that aggressive immigration enforcement promised by President Trump’s
administration would weaken the already shaky bond between minority
communities and police. In recent weeks, reports that ICE agents have
identified themselves as police officers during raids and made arrests in
courthouses have caused some to wonder whether immigrants in the country
illegally will refuse to cooperate with police as a result.

In a statement released late Tuesday, ICE spokeswoman Virginia C. Kice
dismissed Beck’s comments as speculative, pointing out that crime victims
and witnesses who are in the country illegally are sometimes offered
special visas. Federal officials also take a person’s status as a crime
victim into consideration when debating whether to pursue deportation
proceedings, she said.

“The inference by Los Angeles officials that the agency’s execution of its
mission is undermining public safety is outrageous and wrongheaded,” Kice
said. “In fact, the greater threat to public safety is local law
enforcement’s continuing unwillingness to honor immigration detainers.
Rather than transferring convicted criminal aliens to ICE custody as
requested, agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are
routinely releasing these offenders back onto the street to potentially
reoffend, and their victims are often other members of the immigrant

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration
Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates for immigration
restrictions, said she was concerned that Beck had rushed to conflate
immigration enforcement with a local crime issue. It would be very
difficult, she said, to argue that the decrease in reports from the Latino
community is not simply the result of fewer assaults being committed.

“It’s highly premature to conclude that this decline in reports has
anything at all to do with immigration,” Vaughan said.

Beck stopped short of blaming the dip in crime reporting solely on Trump’s
immigration policies but said there was a “strong correlation” between the
timing of the decrease and the panic among the city’s immigrant
population. He expressed concern that ICE’s actions might deter crime
victims who are in the country illegally from coming forward.

Latino victims reported 123 sexual assaults between Jan. 1 and March 18
compared with 164 in the same time frame last year, according to crime
statistics released by the LAPD. By comparison, sexual assaults reported
by non-Latino victims dropped from 228 to 221, a decrease of roughly 3%.

The number of spousal abuse complaints made by Latinos fell from 1,210
last year to 1,092 in that same time frame this year, according to the
LAPD data. Reports of spousal abuse among non-Latinos slid from 1,217 to
1,165, a decline of about 4%.

Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the American Civil
Liberties Union of Southern California, said the decline in reporting is
an obvious consequence of Trump’s tough talk on immigration and the
increasingly aggressive stance taken by ICE and other immigration
enforcement agencies.

“I think that these two sets of crimes are very good measures of the
impact that the current climate is having on people’s ability to come out
of the shadows and report crimes, particularly for these kinds of crimes,
which already are underreported,” she said.

It was not clear if other cities in California were seeing similar
declines. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was not immediately
able to provide comparable statistics. Police officials in Long Beach and
Anaheim said their agencies do not track crimes by the ethnicity of the
reporting victim.

Oakland police said the number of sexual assaults reported in the city
this year has remained almost identical compared with 2016, but the agency
could not provide ethnic data on victims. Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a Santa
Ana police spokesman, said the number of sexual assaults and domestic
violence cases reported in the majority-Latino city has remained static so
far in 2017.

Still, officials in other areas of the country have said that ICE’s
tactics have deterred some crime victims from coming forward. In the last
few weeks, city officials in Denver and El Paso, Texas, have said several
women in the country illegally who were seeking restraining orders against
alleged abusers withdrew those requests for fear they would be arrested at
the courthouse by ICE agents.

Garcetti said Trump’s tough enforcement directives have had a chilling
effect on the immigrant community that goes far beyond crime reporting.
The mayor said he believes parents are keeping their children home from
school and disengaging from arts programs and other community activities
for fear that they might be targeted for deportation simply by being out
in public.

“That is unacceptable in our Los Angeles,” he said. “I don’t ever want
good people to hold back from kicking a ball in a park.”

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